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1.4.12 Care Plans in Care Proceedings

Please see relevant section of Forms Library to access the required template.


Contents  

  1. Introduction
  2. Structure and Content
  3. Reasons and Timescales
  4. Format of Care Plan
  5. Endorsement of the Care Plan within the Local Authority
  6. Care Plans and Assessments
  7. Care Plans and Diversity
  8. Care Proceedings Prior to an Adoption Plan
  9. Care Plans and Care Leavers
  10. Care Plan Procedure


1. Introduction

  1. Care planning is a crucial ingredient in the preparation of the local authority’s application to court for a Care Order because it explains how the proposed Care Order will be implemented in order to achieve specific outcomes for the child or young person. Before making a Care Order, courts have to be satisfied that the:
    • “Threshold criteria” at section 31(2) (“Significant Harm”) are satisfied.
    • The “welfare checklist at Section 1 (3) is addressed.
    • The making of an order is better than not making an Order (Section 1 (5)).
    This judgement will often rely to a considerable extent on the details presented by the local authority to the court in the papers commonly known as the Care Plan.

    (See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure).


2. Structure and Content

The structure and contents of the Care Plan must conform to the following.

The advised contents of the Care Plan items are set out within a structure of five sections:

  • Overall aim;
  • Child’s need including contact;
  • Views of others;
  • Placement details & timetable;
  • Management and support by local authorities.

The complete list of matters that should be included within each of the Care Plan’s five sections is as follows:-

Section 1: Overall Aim

Caption: Section 1: Overall Aim
   
1.1 Aim of the plan and summary of timetable.

Section 2: Child’s Needs including Contact

Caption: Section 2: Child’s Needs including Contact
   
2.1 The child’s identified needs, including needs arising from race, culture, religion or language, special education, health or disability’s;
2.2 The extent to which the wishes and views of the child have been obtained and acted upon; and
2.3 The reasons for supporting this or explanations of why wishes/views have not been given absolute precedence;
2.4 Summary of how those needs might be met;
2.5 Arrangements for, and purpose of, contact in meeting the child’s needs (specifying contact relationships e.g. parent, step-parent, other family member, former carer, friend, sibling, including those looked after who may have a separate placement); any proposals to restrict or terminate contact.

Section 3: Views of Others

Caption: Section 3: Views of Others
   
3.1 The extent to which the wishes and views of the child’s parents and anyone else with a sufficient interest in the child (including representatives of other agencies, current and former carers) have been obtained and acted upon, and
3.2 The reasons for supporting them or explanations of why wishes/ views have been given absolute precedence.

Section 4: Placement Details and Timetable

Caption: Section 4: Placement Details and Timetable
   
4.1 Proposed placemen - type and detail (or details of alternative placements);
4.2 Time that is likely to elapse before proposed placement is made;
4.3 Likely duration of placement (or other placement);
4.4 Arrangements for health care (including consent to examination and treatment);
4.5 Arrangements for education (including any pre-school day care/activity);
4.6 Arrangements for reunification (often known as ‘rehabilitation’);
4.7 Other services to be provided to the child;
4.8 Other services to be provided to parents and other family members;
4.9 Details of proposed support services in placement for the carers;
4.10 Specific details of the parents’ role in day to day arrangements.

Section 5: Management and Support by Local Authority

Caption: Section 5: Management and Support by Local Authority
   
5.1 Who is to be responsible for implementing the overall plan;
5.2 Who is to be responsible for implementing specific tasks within the plan;
5.3 Dates of review;
5.4 Contingency plan if placement breaks down or if preferred placement is not available;
5.5 Arrangements for input by parents, the child and others into the ongoing decision-making process;
5.6 Arrangements for notifying the responsible authority of disagreements about the implementation of the Care Plan or making representation or complaints.


3. Reasons and Timescales

Care Plans need to be understood by a range of professionals, the child and the child’s family. The following should be reflected in the wording of the Care Plan;

  • Confusion and mistrust can inadvertently be generated where Care Plans explain what is proposed but give insufficient detail as to why a particular placement or course of action has been chosen;
  • Attention to this aspect of the care plan will save time, often in court itself, explaining the basis on which the local authority has made certain key decisions, including those around contact;
  • It is important that everyone concerned with the finalisation of the Care Plan considers an achievable time-scale leading up to specific outcomes for overall implementation, as well as for each of the key steps within it. This should be made clear within the plan;
  • These will help at a later stage if a Care Plan is made. Children's Independent and Safeguarding Reviewing Officer can then monitor the implementation of the Care Plan and will be able to identify, as necessary, and delays and ensure that these are addressed.


4. Format of Care Plan

The Care Plan in the proceedings is a distinct and separate formal court document. It is not required to be presented as a sworn statement or affidavit. It must not be incorporated into a local authority statement of evidence. It should not inappropriately duplicate information in such statements, such as the child or young person’s history and evidential aspects of the proceedings.


5. Endorsement of the Care Plan within the Local Authority

The Care Plan presented by the local authority must be an authorised plan about the child or young person’s needs, the best way of responding to those needs, and the detailed arrangements setting out how the local authority will provide services to promote and protect the child or young person’s welfare whilst he or she is the subject of a Care Order.

The commitment to the plan may require an input from a range of services.

This may include education and health in addition to Children's Social Care. In such cases agreement should have been reached with these agencies in respect of services included in the plan.

In exceptional cases and where the court considers it necessary, a designated officer or other senior manager may be required to attend court and given evidence on behalf of the local authority.


6. Care Plans and Assessments

The completed assessment should provide a clear evidential base for the judgements made by the social worker and will indicate where other professionals might be required to undertake assessments e.g. paediatricians, speech therapists, educational psychologists, child and family psychiatrists.


7. Care Plans and Diversity

The Care Plan for disabled children will need to show that what is proposed is the best way to meet the assessed needs of the child or young person. The plans should detail any physical or other characteristics in the environment which exacerbate the impact of any impairment the child may have.

Care Plans must fully reflect the dimensions of race, culture, religion and language in respect of child and young person and their family.


8. Care Proceedings Prior to an Adoption Plan

In a small number of cases, it becomes apparent during proceedings that adoption will be the preferred option set out in the Care Plan, should a Care Order be made at the final hearing.

Where adoption is the probable option, the courts will need to be advised of the likely steps and time-scales to implement the plan, including the consideration of the child’s case by the Adoption Panel and the filing of an application for a Placement Order, and this will be addressed in the court time-table. However it is important to remember that, although there may be a number of different possible plans being developed for the child in parallel (sometimes referred to as twin track planning), the child’s case cannot be presented to the Adoption Panel for an ‘in principle’ decision and therefore the social worker presenting the case must be in a position to make a clear recommendation that the child should be placed for adoption. Where there remain dissenting opinions from other parties and other experts, the Adoption Panel must be informed of these opinions in the social worker’s Child’s Permanence Report.

In situations where the facts of the case remain in dispute up to the final hearing, the choice of placement may significantly depend on findings of fact and, indeed, in some cases no care order is made at all. Even in such cases, it should normally be possible to explain within the Care Plan, the principle steps which would need to be taken before an adoptive placement could be made, i.e. presentation to the Adoption Panel and the filing of a Placement Order application, and give estimated time-scales for each of the key steps. This would include in those cases where it is necessary to timetable therapeutic work with the child before preparing the child for placement.

If the facts of certain cases in the care application are not disputed and the preferred option in the Care Plan is adoption, it is important that the Local Authority is satisfied that sufficient assessment has taken place to rule out rehabilitation or placement with relatives who may wish to apply for a section 8 order or Special Guardianship. In these cases, the presentation of the child’s case to the Adoption Panel, the filing of a Placement Order application where appropriate and the process of finding an adoptive placement should be facilitated. How much progress can be made before the final hearing will depend on a range of factors, including the overall time-scale of the care proceedings. Unless a Placement Order application is being considered as part of the court proceedings sensitivity is needed to ensure that the child’s parent(s) understands that the care hearing under the Children Act 1989 is not the same as any later hearing under adoption legislation which would address the questions of parental consent.


9. Care Plans and Care Leavers

In respect of a young person, the Care Plan may need to consider the arrangements for leaving care. See Pathway Planning Procedure.

  1. Reviewing the implementation of the Care Plan

    Reviews of the implementation of the care plan take place within the statutory framework for Reviewing Children’s Cases. Please see Looked After Reviews Procedure;
  2. The Detailed Procedure

    The Detailed Procedure covers several areas including applications involving siblings (Section 3) and care proceedings prior to an adoption plan (Section 4).


10. Care Plan Procedure

  1. The first page of the Care Plan should include the following information:
    • Full name of child;
    • Date of birth;
    • Court case number;
    • Name of court hearing application;
    • Date of the court hearing;
    • Type of hearing (i.e. directions, interim or final hearing);
    • Name of local authority;
    • Number of plan;
    • Date of plan.
  2. Where during proceedings several plans have been produced, each should be numbered to avoid confusion. So ensuring that after the Care Order is made, the particular numbered Care Plan is that understood by all parties and the court as being the operative one and may be referred to as such in any formal judicial communication.

    The subsequent pages should set out the main elements of the Care Plan under clearly marked headings. These should correspond with Sections 1 to 5 as described in the Key Points, Section 2. Paragraphs must be numbered.

    The first page of the Care Plan under “type of hearing” should clearly distinguish between interim Care Plans for interim court hearings and the complete plan for the final hearing;
  3. The last page of the Care Plan should include the following information:
    • Full name and professional position of the person who has prepared the Care Plan. This should normally be the Social Worker allocated to the case;
    • Signature;
    • Date;
    • Work address and telephone number;

      Followed by:
      • Full name(s) and professional position(s) of the person(s) endorsing the plan for the final hearing on behalf of the local authority making the application,
        ‘Refer to Key Points Section 5 for details;
      • Signature(s);
      • Date(s);
      • Work address(es) and telephone number(s).
  4. Applications involving siblings

    A separate care plan is needed for each child who is the subject of care proceedings. Whilst some of the information within the Care Plans for siblings may be similar, you must ensure that where there are differences these are clearly set out;
  5. Care proceedings prior to an adoption plan

    Refer to the detail in Key Points section 10.

    In cases where the local authority has ruled out rehabilitation or placement with relatives and has confirmed adoption as the preferred option, the following should be addressed:

    The local authority should ensure the co-ordination of information between the team responsible for the care proceedings application and those responsible for family finding and to allocate responsibilities for carrying out the necessary work. See also Planning for Adoption and Preparation of the Adoption Plan and the Child's Permanence Report Procedure.
    1. The Child’s Permanence Report should be completed as far as possible, including obtaining from the parent(s) relevant medical and other details, although there may be difficulty in obtaining the necessary medical and other information from the parents;
    2. The adoption panel should consider the case, with a view to making a recommendation on whether the child should be placed for adoption - see Presentation of Children’s Cases to the Adoption Panel Procedure;
    3. The social worker should have identified the key steps and timetable, including family finding and any necessary therapy, and issues of contact (for inclusion in the Care Plan) which would lead to an adoptive placement, if the court made a care order;
    4. The Care Plan should include a contingency plan for use in specified circumstances if the preferred option for adoption cannot be achieved;
    5. Consideration should be given as to whether a Placement Order application is required in order to obtain authority to place the child for adoption. This will always be the case where the adoption plan is not agreed by the parents. See Consent to Adoption and Applying for a Placement Order.

      The early identification of care cases with a view to adoption, which may also require the consideration of other possible permanence plans in parallel, must take place so that evidence and time-tabling of hearings can be co-ordinated. Full discussion is therefore required with Legal Services.

      In cases where there are various options to be considered for the child’s future, it is not possible to present the child’s case to the adoption panel until there can be a clear recommendation for adoption and the other permanence options have been ruled out. The adoption panel cannot make ‘in principle’ or ‘conditional’ recommendation. In addition no placement for adoption can be made until the local authority has obtained authority to place the child for adoption and the proposed placement has been presented to the adoption panel - see Presentation of Proposed Placements to the Adoption Panel Procedure, which will usually be via a placement order. It is not appropriate, before a placement order has been obtained to arrange introductions between the child and the prospective adopters.

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